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Ethics on Surrogate Mothers

Sometimes couples who cannot conceive a baby by themselves choose to use a surrogate mother, where another woman carries their child. One way of surrogacy is when a woman who’s unable to carry a baby to term, but is otherwise fertile, has her embryos transplanted to the surrogate mother. The eggs might be fertilized by the biological father or by artificial insemination if the male has fertility issues. In other cases, a surrogate mother is in fact the biological mother of the child as her very own eggs are used to create the embryo.

In certain states, such as Arkansas and Delaware, surrogacy is illegal.

Even in states where surrogacy is allowed, it can be quite a complicated process for the non-biological mother to be named as the parent, particularly in cases when the surrogate is the biological mother. The surrogate must sign away her maternal rights so the intended mother can adopt the child. If the sperm of the adoptive mother’s husband was used to fertilize the egg, the biological father is named on the child’s birth certificate.

Many states require a legal contract be drafted between the couple and the surrogate and her spouse or partner detailing all arrangements concerning the pregnancy and birth. The parties involved with a surrogacy contract should seek the advice of legal counsel to be sure that pertinent issues are addressed and that the contract is in compliance with state and local laws involving surrogacy and adoption. Sometimes a surrogate mother changes her mind and refuses to give up her child.

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However, in states where surrogacy is allowed, the biological mother usually doesn’t win custody or visitation rights. Typically, the surrogate and the parents sign an agreement to avoid this from happening. Nonetheless, there’s always the possibility that the surrogate mother might win her case. Many surrogacy agreements state what the surrogate can and cannot do while pregnant. But ultimately, the parents should trust the surrogate mom to do what’s in the best interests of the baby.

Issues may develop whenever a surrogate breaches the agreement by smoking, abusing drugs or consuming} alcohol while pregnant. As with any pregnancy there’s always the possibility for medical or obstetrical troubles, which may hurt the baby or the surrogate mother. For starters, there’s the chance of transmission of contagious disease to the surrogate when another woman’s eggs are transplanted into the surrogate. Because of this, both biological parents should be prescreened. In case a surrogate develops problems in the beginning that put her life at an increased risk, she may want to end the pregnancy. Another issue that may arise is if health practitioners discover learn that the fetus has possible birth defects and other health concerns. In that situation, the parents may choose they cannot continue with the surrogacy.

This generates all sorts of legal issues, especially when the sperm is from a donor or eggs other than the surrogate’s were used for pregnancy. The problem then becomes who gets to determine whether to proceed with the pregnancy. Even though some people see surrogacy as baby-selling and look down on a female who is a surrogate, in recent years surrogacy has become more of a recognized practice. However the ethical issue remains concerning whether a female who’s being paid for her surrogacy is exploiting infertile couples and entering the agreement for money. Others begin to see the infertile couple as exploiting the surrogate’s body and taking advantage of a female who needs money.

Another issue, a couple that would adopt a child would be rigorously screened and be assessed to their suitability. This would not be the case with surrogacy. Some people who would be restricted from adopting could avoid this process by using a surrogate. One of the key issues is with regards to surrogacy is it is impossible to determine the risks involved in the surrogacy process. A surrogate needs to be informed of the potential risks to her health and the possible psychological trauma she can suffer. There should a moral requirement for all parties involved to consider the welfare of the child born into any agreement. However, surrogacy raises the debate of people’s “right” to have children. If we refuse the option of surrogacy, are we discriminating against the infertile?

The first recorded case of surrogacy in the United States was in 1976. Noel Keane, a lawyer, arranged the first surrogacy agreement between a surrogate mother and the intended parents. This mother was not compensated financially. Afterwards, Keane went on to create the Infertility Center, which arranged hundreds of surrogacy agreements every year . However despite the numerous ethical issues at stake, statistics show that there has been an increase in the numbers of women who become surrogates. From 2004-2008 the number of infants born to gestational surrogates had doubled. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology reported from 738 infants born to over 1,400 from surrogate births. However, the amount of surrogacies annually is likely to be more, as many fertility centers don’t report to SART. Additionally, there are couples
who enter private agreements with a surrogate where agencies aren’t involved.


Pacific Connection Fertility Services: Surrogacy Yale — New Haven Teachers Institute: Ethical Problems Surrounding Surrogate Motherhood

Dr Rebecca Gibbs, North East Essex PCT, Surrogacy, January 2008.

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Ethics on Surrogate Mothers. (2016, Apr 18). Retrieved from

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